How to save 1 million dollars with OKRs

An example of an unconventional success stories worth millions of dollars (saved through out-of-the-box flexibility with OKRs)

Luca Cipriani
4 min readApr 19, 2024

Ok, ok, I know. I promised no clickbaiting, and here I am, already making bold claims from the title.

But the thing is: these kinds of success stories are not that rare in OKR-land.

I’ll dive into the “million-dollar” story in a second, but first, let me set some context.

Do NOT dive into the backlog

Usually, when a company faces an OKR rollout, the first place they look at is… their backlog!

A team’s backlog is a scary place (to me). It may be a simple Google document or a complicated Jira board, but it’s always populated with ideas that sound very good on paper.

Me, an OKR consultant, visiting your team’s backlog

And so, what teams, and even senior leadership, unfortunately, tend to do is pull some actions from their backlog and ask: “Which key results match this initiative?” After matching it with an OKR, they put it right back in the backlog of the team that owned that initiative before and call it a day.

This is understandable, but it’s wrong ❌

This pattern prevents first-principle thinking on how to achieve a Key Result 🔑 and stops the team from getting unexpected help from other functions in the organization.

A back-office story

Jumping from theory to real OKR stories, I want to share an example to drive the point home.

Usually, a lot of OKR talk is about leads, marketing, growth. But they can be deployed successfully even in the back office.

The stage of this story is set in the purchasing department of a company I happen to know very well, well enough for them to spill the beans.

This company (mid-sized with around 200 FTEs) wanted to reduce their COGS, especially looking at the weight of Service Providers, which was significant.

🎯 They included this ambition in one of their main OKR for the quarter.

“Should we go one by one?”

The first thing the purchasing department did was look into their backlog to see if there was anything they had already thought out on the issue of “reducing COGS and service provider costs.”

They found a Trello Card titled “SaaS tools review.”

The idea was to review, one by one, the SaaS tools used in the company and determine if they were still essential or could be canceled/downgraded to reduce the monthly impact on COGS.

If you have ever done anything like that, you know it takes tiiiiiiiime*.

*(Try doing that even just with your streaming subscriptions 😉)

Swiss knife > Tool shed

Thankfully, the Head of the Purchasing department (a huge supporter of OKRs within the org) stopped this effort on its tracks.

He called a meeting with a few other managers to tackle the key results using first-principle thinking.

The Head of Marketing, a function spending a lot of budget on SaaS tools, came up with a radical idea.

“We have a great relationship with our CRM provider X, and we are in the top 1% of their B2B clients. Why don’t we also move all of our email management, landing page building, A/B testing, hosting, and link tracking needs to their suite and negotiate a special deal?”

📞 Everyone loved the idea, and they got a meeting with the management team of provider X to negotiate a multi-year commitment for a discounted price (70% off!!) — with permission for their company to be used as a B2B case study.

💰 This radical approach saved the company almost 1 million dollars over the span of two years.

Remember: Always start your solution brainstorming with the objective in mind. Here, the objective was “to reduce COGS linked to Service Providers,” not “to analyze and decide on each SaaS tool active right now, going through a manual review.”

Nerd out links

  • Read my interview for Il Sole 24 Ore on OKRs in SMEs (in italian 🇮🇹)
  • Read my take on how to make the most out of in person meet-ups.
  • Copy some well written OKRs.

Thinking your OKR strategy might need a tweak? Let’s talk about it. You can always hit me up on LinkedIn, or follow me there for more content like this.

Ciao for now, 👋




Luca Cipriani

I’m an OKR coach for scale-ups and the Head of Engineering @ Jimdo (formerly CIO @ Arduino).